The Lascelles Principles were a constitutional convention in the United Kingdom between 1950 and 2011, under which the Sovereign could refuse a request from the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament if three conditions were met:
- if the existing Parliament was still "vital, viable, and capable of doing its job",
- if a general election would be "detrimental to the national economy", and
- if the Sovereign could "rely on finding another prime minister who could govern for a reasonable period with a working majority in the House of Commons".
The convention has been in abeyance since 2011, when the Sovereign's prerogative power to dissolve Parliament was removed by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.
During public discussion of the King's potential response to the outcome of the 1950 general election, which returned a very slim Labour Party majority in the House of Commons, the Lascelles Principles were formally stated in a letter by Sir Alan Lascelles, Private Secretary to King George VI, under the pseudonym "Senex" to the Editor of The Times, published on 2 May 1950:
To the Editor of The Times
Sir, It is surely indisputable (and common sense) that a Prime Minister may ask—not demand—that his Sovereign will grant him a dissolution of Parliament; and that the Sovereign, if he so chooses, may refuse to grant this request. The problem of such a choice is entirely personal to the Sovereign, though he is, of course, free to seek informal advice from anybody whom he thinks fit to consult.
In so far as this matter can be publicly discussed, it can be properly assumed that no wise Sovereign—that is, one who has at heart the true interest of the country, the constitution, and the Monarchy—would deny a dissolution to his Prime Minister unless he were satisfied that: (1) the existing Parliament was still vital, viable, and capable of doing its job; (2) a General Election would be detrimental to the national economy; (3) he could rely on finding another Prime Minister who could carry on his Government, for a reasonable period, with a working majority in the House of Commons. When Sir Patrick Duncan refused a dissolution to his Prime Minister in South Africa in 1939, all these conditions were satisfied: when Lord Byng did the same in Canada in 1926, they appeared to be, but in the event the third proved illusory.
I am, &c.,
Thus, the letter asserted the constitutional power of the Sovereign to deny a dissolution, described the conditions for a valid exercise of that power, and referred to relevant precedents: occasions on which requests for parliamentary dissolution not exhibiting these conditions were refused by governors-general of British Commonwealth nations, acting on behalf of the monarch.
In August 2019, David Herdson of politicalbetting.com suggested the principles could still have relevance if a PM lost a vote of no confidence and then, intending to seek an election rather than allow someone else to form a government, argued a right to such an election as reason for not resigning and running down the clock.
- See: J. B. M. Hertzog
- See: King-Byng Affair and Arthur Meighen: prime minister: second parliament
- "Dissolution of Parliament: Factors in Crown's Choice" (letter). The Times. 2 May 1950. p. 5. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
- The Economist, 24 December 1994, page 32 (cited in British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials, Colin Turpin and Adam Tomkins, 2007, page 364, ISBN 978-0-521-69029-4)
- "An unconventional carry on". August 10, 2019. Retrieved August 28, 2019.